Event Title

From Locus Amoenus to Locus Horribilis: Provincial and Urban Spaces of Cultural (Re)Assertion and Hegemony in Yates and Sigel’s When the Mountains Tremble and Bustamante’s Ixcanul

Location

University at Albany, Humanities 290

Start Date

6-10-2017 3:00 PM

End Date

6-10-2017 3:30 PM

Description

The trope of locus amoenus, or the idyllic representation of heaven on earth, and its counterpart locus horribilis, or the mundane incarnation of hell, was first critically defined by Ernst Robert Curtius in 1953 and identified in religiously influenced literature as early as Latin and medieval European works. Since then, the locus theory has appeared in numerous secular texts and films, such as Marcelo Ferrari’s Sub Terra (2004), as a means of distinguishing the once-pristine ‘purity’ of provincial spaces from the physically and metaphorically cramped mines and buildings produced by an urbanized modernity. This essay seeks to translate the conversation on provincial spaces versus urban ones into the context of Latin American modernization and its impact on indigenous cultures who either withstand, reject or succumb to from the invasion into their provincial locus amoenus, as portrayed in film. In Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel’s When the Mountains Tremble (1983), based on Elizabeth Burgos’ testimonial work I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983), Quiché activist Rigoberta Menchú describes her “virgin” and isolated mountainous homeland in Guatemala as a source of psycho-emotional security as well as religious and cultural “self-defense from the city.” In contrast, the nearby “city” forms the synecdochal backdrop of the urbanized, modernized mestizo hegemony: the expanding locus horribilis that devours the locus amoenus of the countryside with plantations and exploitation. Jayro Bustamante’s Ixcanul (2015), a portrait of a similarly young Quiché woman who yearns for freedom from her province, at first appears to subvert the locus trope with the mountains serving as an infernal prison and the “city” landscape of the United States promising celestial liberation. However, the film ultimately echoes the same cynicism as When the Mountains Tremble toward urbanity. In this comparative paper, I closely examine the dynamic between city and province in both films as locus horribilis invading locus amoenus. I further postulate that indigenous cultural erasure and economic dependence on the hegemony are some of the grave consequences of such an imbrication of spaces; and I conclude that, as illustrated by both films but especially by Ixcanul, the pristine and self-sufficient refuge of locus amoenus can no longer exist once contaminated by locus horribilis.

Speaker Information

Katrina Abad is an M.A. student of Hispanic Literatures & Cultures at the University at Albany. She attained her B.A. in Hispanic Literature and Latin American & Caribbean Studies, summa cum laude, at the same university, after completing her honors thesis, “La adversidad de ser: Resistencia al colonialismo psicológico en la poesía de Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda y Nicanor Parra.” The analysis of resistance to hegemony as it appears in the literature of the (post)colonized continues to inform her current research interests. Katrina’s research largely focuses on the decolonial voices of early 20th-century and contemporary Latin American poetry; the disparity of the definitions of indigenous communities’ human rights and their violation, as described in testimonial works; and the function of spaces in the creation of transcultural identities, especially in regards to the traveling bodies of indigenous laborers from the provincial to the urban and of Latin American immigrants to the United States.

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Oct 6th, 3:00 PM Oct 6th, 3:30 PM

From Locus Amoenus to Locus Horribilis: Provincial and Urban Spaces of Cultural (Re)Assertion and Hegemony in Yates and Sigel’s When the Mountains Tremble and Bustamante’s Ixcanul

University at Albany, Humanities 290

The trope of locus amoenus, or the idyllic representation of heaven on earth, and its counterpart locus horribilis, or the mundane incarnation of hell, was first critically defined by Ernst Robert Curtius in 1953 and identified in religiously influenced literature as early as Latin and medieval European works. Since then, the locus theory has appeared in numerous secular texts and films, such as Marcelo Ferrari’s Sub Terra (2004), as a means of distinguishing the once-pristine ‘purity’ of provincial spaces from the physically and metaphorically cramped mines and buildings produced by an urbanized modernity. This essay seeks to translate the conversation on provincial spaces versus urban ones into the context of Latin American modernization and its impact on indigenous cultures who either withstand, reject or succumb to from the invasion into their provincial locus amoenus, as portrayed in film. In Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel’s When the Mountains Tremble (1983), based on Elizabeth Burgos’ testimonial work I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983), Quiché activist Rigoberta Menchú describes her “virgin” and isolated mountainous homeland in Guatemala as a source of psycho-emotional security as well as religious and cultural “self-defense from the city.” In contrast, the nearby “city” forms the synecdochal backdrop of the urbanized, modernized mestizo hegemony: the expanding locus horribilis that devours the locus amoenus of the countryside with plantations and exploitation. Jayro Bustamante’s Ixcanul (2015), a portrait of a similarly young Quiché woman who yearns for freedom from her province, at first appears to subvert the locus trope with the mountains serving as an infernal prison and the “city” landscape of the United States promising celestial liberation. However, the film ultimately echoes the same cynicism as When the Mountains Tremble toward urbanity. In this comparative paper, I closely examine the dynamic between city and province in both films as locus horribilis invading locus amoenus. I further postulate that indigenous cultural erasure and economic dependence on the hegemony are some of the grave consequences of such an imbrication of spaces; and I conclude that, as illustrated by both films but especially by Ixcanul, the pristine and self-sufficient refuge of locus amoenus can no longer exist once contaminated by locus horribilis.